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Top Premier League Storylines — Week 26

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The first weekend after the transfer window has closed means teams will look to integrate their new signings as quickly as possible. What will be the fallout from the deals done?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Which new attacking player will have the most immediate impact?
Manchester City vs. Newcastle United — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC STREAM ]

Olivier Giroud could start if Alvaro Morata is still sidelined. Alexis Sanchez has yet to hit the back of the net for Manchester United. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan headline the Arsenal attack as the Gunners host Everton. The Toffees still need Cenk Tosun to get off the mark.

Which attacker will have the biggest impact this weekend? With Morata likely to return, Giroud will most certainly have to wait for his first chance at Chelsea, but that could come quickly if Morata continues to fire blanks, with just one goal since December 3rd. Sanchez was stifled by Tottenham as Manchester United fell 2-0 last time out. Arsenal seems to have the best chance, with Aubameyang likely to be thrust into action soon as the Gunners have few options up front. As they host Everton at the Emirates, the Gabonese international could be at the forefront of the headlines in London as they take on a defense without a clean sheet since Boxing Day.

Who will take charge of second place?
Liverpool vs. Tottenham — 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN STREAM ]

A Manchester United loss last time out means the top four race is even more wide open than before. The Red Devils have just a three-point lead in second place, and Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham are all within three or five points. Two of those teams meet in a critical matchup as the Reds host Spurs at Anfield.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

With Liverpool three points behind Manchester United and Spurs five back, either team could potentially take control of third position with a win and some help. The Reds were incredibly quiet on Deadline Day, and now the leaky Liverpool defense will have to contend with Alexis Sanchez for a third time this season. The past two times Sanchez met the Reds while with Arsenal, a total of 10 goals were scored between the two matches (a 4-0 Liverpool win and a 3-3 draw that saw Sanchez score a goal).

Can Virgil Van Dijk lock down Harry Kane in a battle of Premier League stars? All eyes will be on that matchup as these two teams battle it out for top four supremacy.

Can Swansea continue surge against tumultuous Leicester?
Leicester City vs. Swansea City — 10:00 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold STREAM ]

Riyad Mahrez has reportedly gone on strike at Leicester City with his future at the club in jeopardy. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Swansea City has kicked down the door to safety with a pair of impressive wins against Liverpool and Arsenal to help them lift off the bottom of the table. They visit King Power Stadium on Saturday to take on a Leicester City side in serious turmoil. After the club once again refused to sell Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City, the star winger has reportedly refused to show up for training, and his status for this weekend – and beyond – could be in serious jeopardy.

The Foxes saw their three-match unbeaten run snapped last time out against Everton, could they be in for more disappointment at home with Mahrez on the outside looking in? With a win and the right results, Swansea could not only lift themselves out of the relegation zone, but they could leap as high as 14th if things go right. What a result that could be for new manager Carlos Carvahal.

Will Manchester City put its depth problems in the rear view mirror?
Burnley vs. Manchester City — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

The Premier League runaways dominated West Brom last time out, but breaking down Burnley at Turf Moor is a whole other task. With Manchester City unable to secure a deal for Mahrez at the deadline, they are left with Bernardo Silva to step into the injured Leroy Sane’s role. The Portuguese winger has seen his role diminish with Sane’s explosion and his own struggles, with just one goal and no assists in his last six appearances. However, with Sane out for six weeks at minimum, Bernardo Silva will combine with David Silva and Raheem Sterling to fill Sane’s shoes.

Burnley’s inability to score of late will leave them serious underdogs in this matchup, but should they knick a score, the stout Clarets defense could take center stage. Burnley has not conceded more than one goal in any game since they last faced Manchester City just about a month ago in a 4-1 FA Cup loss. Will the Citizens punish Burnley again?

FIFA Council member Nyantakyi arrested on return to Ghana

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) FIFA Council member and Ghana Football Association head Kwesi Nyantakyi has been arrested on his return to his home country following a complaint made against him by the Ghanaian president.

Police spokesman David Eklu confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday that Nyantakyi, also a vice president of the Confederation of African Football, is in custody and being interrogated.

[READ: Yaya Toure talks future, playing with Paul Pogba]

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo asked police to investigate Nyantakyi after the soccer boss allegedly was caught in an undercover documentary promising businessmen access to the president and other senior government officials in return for money.

Nyantakyi was out of the country at the time President Akufo-Addo made the complaint.

Ghana media reported that Nyantakyi, a member of the powerful FIFA Council since 2016 and an influential figure in African football, was picked up by plain-clothes police at the airport in Accra and taken straight to police headquarters.

NFL’s 49ers purchase minority stake in Leeds United

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One of England’s most famous clubs is receiving investment and strategic business connections from one of the NFL’s most famous brands.

Leeds United and the San Francisco 49ers announced Thursday that 49ers Enterprises, an investment arm of the 49ers ownership, has purchased a minority stake in the Championship club. Multiple reports state that the 49ers now own 10-15 percent of the club, but current Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani remains the majority owner.

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As part of the deal, 49ers President Paraag Marathe gets a seat on the Leeds United board of directors. Per Leeds, the money invested will stay with the club and be used for the first team, as Leeds looks again to make its way back to the Premier League in next season’s campaign.

An American ownership group investing in England is nothing new, but to identify and purchase a stake in a club with history and a decent chance at making it to the Premier League is impressive. In addition, the York Family, who owns the 49ers, has a net worth in the billions, which could help fund Leeds’ push back into the Premier League.

For the 49ers, this is also a savvy business decision. By investing low in a club in the Championship, they hope that they can experience the financial windfall of playing in the Premier League. This season, clubs made a combined $3.2 billion (with a capital B) thanks to revenue sharing, international and domestic TV rights, and other sponsorship deals.

With even the relegated sides taking home nine figures in revenues from the league, who wouldn’t want to invest and take a cut of that?

Now, only time will tell how long it is before the 49ers influence helps – or hinders, based on the 49ers current state of affairs in the U.S. – Leeds reach the pinnacle of English football.

Iniesta joins Japanese club Vissel Kobe

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TOKYO (AP) Former Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta was introduced as the newest member of Japanese club Vissel Kobe on Thursday, a poorly kept secret that’s been rumored for weeks.

Iniesta appeared before a packed news conference at a central Tokyo hotel on Thursday along with Kobe’s billionaire owner, Hiroshi Mikitani.

[READ: Earnie Stewart being considered for U.S. Soccer post]

“I’m pleased to announce,” Mikitani said, “that Andres Iniesta will be signing up play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at Barcelona.”

Iniesta signed his contract as Mikitani watched, and then spoke through an interpreter.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but Japanese media are reporting he will earn $30 million annually on a three-year deal.

“For me this is a very special day,” the Spaniard said. “This is an important challenge for me. My family is excited to come to Japan and we are very pleased. There were many offers. Other clubs showed interest. But I decided to sign with Vissel Kobe because the project presented to me was impressive.”

Mikitani is also the CEO of Barcelona sponsor Rakuten, a Japanese online retailer.

Iniesta held up the team’s red shirt with his famous No. 8 on the back, and his name written across the bottom.

Iniesta previously had said he would probably retire from international soccer after Spain plays at this year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 34-year-old Iniesta scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. He also was a key part of Spain’s two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

He announced last month he would leave Barcelona after 16 seasons. His last match for the Spanish club was on Sunday against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Vissel Kobe is in sixth place after 15 games in the J-League. It signed Lukas Podolski last year, but the German striker is out until the end of June with an injured calf.

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?